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Speaking Spring

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By Andy Kirkaldy

Anyone out there object if we talk spring for a moment?

I didn’t think so.

To start with, the Middlebury College lacrosse teams are already practicing and even scrimmaging. One news tidbit: Middlebury Union High School’s own Gus Brakeley is assisting Coach Dave Campbell’s men’s team this year.

At home, with two youth lacrosse players in our household, we get Lacrosse Magazine in the mail. That periodical likes the chances of both Campbell’s Panther men’s team and Coach Missy Foote’s women’s team — they are both picked fourth in the NCAA Division III preseason rankings.

OK, coaches, yes, I know, it doesn’t mean a thing — except that your programs have earned a ton of respect.

Meanwhile, Lacrosse Magazine is touting Cornwall’s Sarah Dalton — who back when helped MUHS win a couple of Vermont D-I titles and last spring scored 71 goals as a Boston University junior — as a possible Tewaaraton Trophy winner. That award is given to the top collegiate men’s and women’s lacrosse athletes. Her BU team, the four-time America East champion, made it to the NCAA quarterfinals a year ago and is ranked the preseason No. 9 by Lacrosse Magazine.

A little closer to home, word is that more recent MUHS graduate Laura Barber may have a good shot at starting in goal for the Vermont women’s lacrosse team and facing Dalton in America East competition this spring. According to MUHS girls’ lacrosse coach Harriette Brainard, Barber opened in goal for the Catamounts’ first scrimmage.

Of course, not all the sports news at UVM is cheerful: the school recently dropped its baseball and softball teams, effective at the end of this season, as part of cutting more than $1 million from its athletic budget.

I won’t debate that move here, but just point out its direct local impact: Mount Abraham and Addison County American Legion standout left-handed pitcher Greg Lutton made the Catamount baseball team as a walk-on.

Now Greg has to decide whether to stay where he may be comfortable pursuing his education, or to transfer to another school to pursue both his studies and his pitching career.

It’s been less than a week since the bomb dropped on the UVM diamond gangs, and I’m sure he’s still dealing with the shock. Let’s just say for now I’m sure there are many schools that would welcome an athlete of Greg’s talent and character.

OK, so much for spring. It’s still winter: There are two local championships to award. In girls’ basketball, MUHS compiled a 4-0 record against Mount Abe, VUHS and Otter Valley to reign as this winter’s regional best in show. The Eagles came in at 3-2, with only a missed last-second shot up in Bristol standing between them and the mythical crown.

The competition among the boys’ teams pretty much proved you really can throw the records out in high school sports. In the regular season, VUHS, MUHS and Mount Abe all split their games with each other. The Otters split two games with Mount Abe, but lost their only game with the Tigers.

That win over OV would have put the Tigers on top if not for the playoff game in which they drew the Eagles and were upset at home. That left the final tally at Eagles, 4-3; Tigers, 3-3; Commodores, 2-2; and Otters, 1-2.

The bragging rights go to Coach Bill Leggett’s boys in Bristol.

That said, the games were played as hard as ever, but there’s so much overlap between the boys’ teams in other seasons the rivalries have taken on a different tone. Many athletes played together this past summer for the Legion baseball team, and they showed up this winter in each others’ gyms wearing their green championship jackets. And many others are AAU hoop teammates. These guys are friends as well as competitors — the post-game handshakes were more than perfunctory. 

And it was great to see the enthusiastic regional support of the successful MUHS boys’ hockey team, which included athletes from all four local school districts.

This winter, there were plenty of good vibes in all venues.

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